Blazing past his blip: How Greenwood overcame his first slump to get back on track for Manchester United

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Mason Greenwood Man United
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The teenager had a difficult start to the season but is hitting fine form after improving over the past few months

Any worries that Mason Greenwood may be suffering from second season syndrome were well and truly dispelled on Tuesday night against West Ham.

With the ball dropping out of the snowy Old Trafford sky, the 19-year-old controlled it on his thigh, took a touch, knocked the ball past Mark Noble before pirouetting on the touchline to go and get it back. A moment of magic in what was a drab FA Cup affair.

As he has shown since breaking into the first team in 2019, Greenwood has plenty of moments of magic in his locker but, so far this season, they have been few and far in between.

Off the pitch issues at the back end of last year contributed to a failure to keep his place in the starting XI. He was managed well by Solskjaer who kept him out of the limelight and also the firing line as his form dipped and he was made to earn his place back in the line-up.

“Mason was different class, the standout performer on the pitch, just didn’t get the goal that his performance deserved,” Solskjaer said about Greenwood’s performance against West Ham.

“The last few games, if you look at his performance closely, I know we scored nine against Southampton - but if you look at his performance, I thought his performance was top and he’s improved and matured immensely.

"He’s working with some of the top forwards in the country, learning off them and it’s exciting to see that he’s come over his blip and is playing really well.”

That "blip", as Solskjaer refers to it, came earlier in the season. After missing the game against Newcastle because he "wasn’t fit enough", the teenager then started just one of the next six Premier League games.

Solskjaer has been credited for his man-management skills during his Old Trafford tenure and has managed to get the best out of Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford in recent months. Now he is reaping the rewards for his handling of Greenwood.

Solskjaer spoke back in November about the need to help players through difficult periods but Greenwood’s good form in the past few weeks hasn’t just come from Solskjaer’s management. As the United boss said, it wasn’t going to happen by itself.

Instead, Greenwood has matured and knuckled down, and his all-round game is benefitting as a result.

Mason Greenwood GFX

He may not have been on the scoresheet against Southampton, but he was one of United’s brightest attacking threats in their 9-0 rout and was the same against Everton at Old Trafford last week.

Had Solskjaer’s side not squandered their lead, he would have taken the headlines after another assured display on that day and then again against West Ham, where he was a bright spark in an otherwise drab affair.

To compare his statistics to earlier in the season, it is easy to see where he has improved. His touches per game are up, as are his passes. 

Most notably, so are his crosses as he is learning from Edinson Cavani to work on his movement and positioning. He managed four in each of the last two games and admitted crossing, as well as improving his defensive play, is something he has been working on at the training ground.

“Obviously, in the academy, I played as a winger before so I've always been strong on crossing, passing and stuff,” Greenwood told MUTV. “With Edi, who you could say is a typical No 9 who is strong in the air, and players like Anthony Martial and Odion Ighalo when he was here as well, it's all good."

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It is no coincidence that his upturn in form has seen him named in the starting XI for three consecutive games and, on current form, it would be hard to argue leaving him out against West Brom on Sunday.

With Martial struggling for form, Solskjaer has found the right balance for his attack with Cavani, Rashford and Greenwood. The teenager has shown in the last few weeks that he is getting back to the fine form he displayed after the restart.

Now, he just needs to find those goals which he was knocking in for fun at the end of the last campaign.

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